A study of “showrooming” showed that even comparison shoppers often end up buying something in the brick and mortar store.
This is why Amazon is considering setting up some retail locations. This should be an opportunity for some of the “brick and mortar” stores. Wal-Mart comes to mind because of their expertise in logistics and convenient locations. I have purchased several items through walmart.com instead of Amazon because free pickup at the Wal-Mart store – just a couple miles away – is even handier than free home delivery…when you worry about having the item sit in your driveway all day.
Despite Wal-Mart’s advantages I suspect that their cost-cutting culture, based on “everyday low prices”, may handicap them in competition with Amazon. This problem was illustrated when I went to Wal-Mart recently to pick up an Internet delivery.
Picking up my walmart.com order
The pickup area is an unadorned room in the middle of the back wall of the Walmart store. I suppose it is in the back in order to be by the warehouse, but another goal may be to make you walk through the entire store – like someone buying milk in Kroger.
There are big negatives to the location: it is a walk, it feels remote and cutoff from the store, it is a long way to carry packages going out. In addition if you forget to get a shopping cart as you entered the store it is a hassle to go back and get one.
As noted, the room is austere. A large sign over a credit card swipe machine says to touch the screen to let an associate know that you are waiting to pick up a walmart.com order. The space is shared with restrooms and a job search computer. The effect is to make you feel like a third class customer. Several associates walked through but simply gave me a pitying look, probably knowing that I would be there a while.
I waited 5 minutes before leaning across the counter to the inside phone. I hit the page button and said “walmart.com customer waiting for assistance in the pickup area.” An associate came back fairly quickly. It turned out that only one of the two text messages I had received from walmart.com was accurate: the second package had not arrived. The associate gave the impression that 50% accuracy was normal.
The pickup took nearly 25 minutes. In that time Wal-Mart managed to deliver half of what was promised and convinced me that I was a low value customer.
I would actually like to see Wal-Mart prevail against AMZN, perhaps out of nostalgia for the 80s, but it will take a company that cares about service to fight Amazon. Maybe Target?